By Emily Frisan
Fast Fashion refers to inexpensive clothing, rapidly-produced by mass-market retailers in order to keep up with the latest fashion trends. In huge quantities, it involves the rapid design, production, distribution, and marketing of clothing. Examples of some of the biggest contributors in the fast fashion world include Zara, Nike, UNIQLO, Forever 21, and H&M. As a result, overconsumption and waste have become a global environmental problem in the modern age. The global apparel retail market is currently worth $1.34 trillion in retail sales per year, and is only expected to grow.
Since the year 2000, clothing sales have doubled from 100 billion to 200 billion units a year while the average number of times an item was worn decreased by 36% overall. The production of making plastic fibers into textiles is an energy-intensive process that is fueled by large amounts of petroleum, with 20% of global wastewater coming just from textile dyeing. With each wash and dry cycle, microfilaments are shed, moving through our sewage systems and making their way into our waters. Fast fashion clothing factories are also responsible for releasing volatile particulate matter and acids like hydrogen chloride into the atmosphere. According to the UN Environment Programme, the fast fashion industry produces half a million tons of microplastics and generates more CO2 than aviation and shipping combined.
Where you live has a direct effect on what you buy, especially in areas where clothing item returns from online shopping sprees exceed the amount of all purchased goods. The Open Apparel Registry (OAR), a database of apparel facilities that uses Google’s Geo-coding to identify yarn and fabric mills, textile dye-houses and finishers, as well as garment manufacturing facilities, created the world’s first free interactive map of apparel factories across the globe.
What can you do if you’re looking to contribute to textile waste reductions?
At home, to reduce water waste, it is recommended to skip at least one in six washing loads, washing half loads on cold at or below 30 degrees Faranheit, and substituting every sixth dryer usage with open-air drying. To improve consumer shopping habits, consumers can buy in less quantities, buy more durable, sustainable fabrics (slow-fashion), support small and local businesses, rent clothes needed for one-time uses (ie. prom dresses), thrift shop, swap clothes with friends, and resell or donate used clothes. Aside from lifestyle changes, in order to reduce major environmental polluters, we must also hold companies accountable for the mass production and waste of fast fashion clothing.